The 2023 MLB season has come to a close. The Texas Rangers have claimed their first World Series title in the franchise's 51 years. Nelson Cruz can finally breathe in a sigh of relief as his misplay of what would have been the final out of the 2011 World Series might hurt a little less now. Corey Seager claimed his second World Series MVP joining the elite crew of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Reggie Jackson as the only four players to claim multiple World Series MVPs. Congratulations to the Rangers, it was well deserved, they went 13-4 throughout the playoffs and were a dominant 9-1 against everyone not named the Astros. I’m sure that the Diamondbacks will be back as well with a younger crew this year, many of whom were getting their first taste of playoff baseball.
Now that the season is over, it’s time for a short but exciting offseason. Before the hot stove turns up and we get to the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, first it’s time for awards season. I’ll share some thoughts on the finalists, and ultimately who I think will take home these coveted awards.
AL Manager of the Year
Finalist #1: Bruce Bochy, Rangers
Bruce Bochy, man what a legend. Now this is a regular season award but it would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the legacy of Boch. Before coming out of retirement Bochy was already bound to make it to Cooperstown, with 3 World Series wins with the Giants and 2003 career wins in his illustrious 25-year stint between the Padres and Giants. In 2023 Bruce Bochy unretired, joining the Texas Rangers who were coming off of a 68-win season. Bochy led the Rangers to a 90-win regular season, securing a wild card spot and coming just a day shy of winning the AL West. Coming into the season expectations certainly were not high and everyone had the Astros winning the division (which ultimately they did, again on the last day of the season).
In the playoffs Bochy did what he does best, dominating the postseason field. The Rangers went 13-4 and claimed their first World Series title. For Bochy this was his 4th title, tying him with Joe Torre and Walter Alston for the fourth most World Series wins in MLB history. His 2093 wins are good for 11th most of all time. Bochy has now cracked the top 10 managers of all time and a case could be made for top 5 all time.
Finalist #2: Brandon Hyde, Orioles
Brandon Hyde entered his 5th year as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles with a less-than-stellar 214-332 record. But, the Orioles were coming off of their first winning season under Hyde with an 84-78 record in 2022. That being said, not many had the Orioles winning the AL East, let alone winning more than 100 games. Hyde and his coaching staff excelled with year, coaching a lineup that lacked top-of-the-line star power to a 101-61 record and their first AL East title since 2014. It was a very impressive year for Baltimore and an even more impressive year for Hyde.
Finalist #3: Kevin Cash, Rays
Kevin Cash wrapped up his 9th year as the Rays manager putting together another impressive year with an AL’s second-best record of 99-63. Cash managed to do this on the 3rd lowest payroll, 73.1 million dollars. That’s less money than the Yankees' two top-paid players Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge made this year (the duo made a combined $76 million in 2023. The Rays under Kevin Cash just as they were under Joe Maddon are the modern-day Moneyball team. Coming off his worst season since 2017, Cash put together a very impressive year, earning him a spot as a finalist for the AL Manager of the Year Award.
Winner: Bruce Bochy, Rangers
Keeping the idea that this is a regular season award in mind, I still think that this award deserves to go to Bruce Bochy. This award historically goes to the manager of the team that surprised us the most. And I have to say that the Rangers and Bochy surprised me the most. I think there were talks that this could be the Orioles year out in the AL East, those talks were not as present for the Rangers. Despite losing DeGrom to injury most of the year, losing Eovaldi to injuries for a good chunk of the second half, Corey Seager missing some time with injuries, Bochy still managed to the AL’s 3rd best record (tied with the Astros), and a coveted playoff spot. For these reasons, I would give Bochy the AL Manager of the Year.
NL Manager of the Year:
Finalist #1: Craig Counsell, Brewers
Craig Counsell has been one of the most underrated managers in all of baseball. Now that he is officially the new manager of the Chicago Cubs we can take a look at his Brewers career in its entirety. In his 9 years as manager of the Brewers, Counsell went 707-625, winning the NL Central 3 times, while matching up against consistently competitive Cardinals and Cubs teams. In 2023 Counsell had the 20th highest payroll with a payroll of $118 million. With a lineup that lacked star power and an inconsistent rotation that saw Brandon Woodruff out for most of the year, Counsell led his team to a 92-70 record, winning the NL Central along the way, a very impressive final year for the skip who will surely be missed in Milwaukee.
Finalist #2: Skip Schumaker, Marlins
Listen, nobody expected Miami to be where they were at the end of the season. In Skip’s first year as a manager in the MLB, he led the Marlins to an 84-78 record, which was good enough to secure a wild card spot in the National League. Coming into 2023, nobody had the Marlins on their playoff board, many teams had them sitting in 4th or 5th place in the NL East with another losing record. Combine the expectations with the fact that the reigning NL Cy Young, Sandy Alcantara was either injured or not good and everyone would have expected the Marlins to have another 90-loss season, something they had accomplished in the last 4 consecutive 162-game regular seasons. But Schumaker and the Marlins persevered, winning a lot of 1 or 2-run games and securing a spot in the MLB Playoffs.
Finalist #3: Brian Snitker, Braves
If you coach your team to the best record in baseball then you deserve to be a candidate for manager of the year. All the props to Snitker, but this isn’t exactly a hard team to manage. With a star-studded lineup led by Ronald Acuna Jr. and Matt Olson and a solid rotation led by Max Fried and Spencer Strider, along with one of the best bullpens in the game, I think a lot of managers could have led this team to 100 wins. But seriously all the props to Snitker here on an MLB-best 104-58 record, Snitker deserves this consideration. I am disappointed that Torey Lovullo didn’t get any love for this award but these three candidates are all deserving.
Winner: Craig Counsell, Brewers
I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Not only is Counsell one of the most underrated managers in all of baseball, I think he is one of the game's best managers. Counsell has a proven track record in the regular season and can do less with more, in his stint with the Brewers, the team only had one year where their payroll ranked higher than 19th in the league, in that year they ranked 17th in payroll. Everyone who's worked with Craig in the past says he is a pleasure to work with both in the front office and the clubhouse. The only thing holding me back from crowning him the game's best is his lack of a World Series ring and an overall lack of playoff success. His final year in Milwaukee should be capped off with the NL Manager of the Year title. He dominated more consistently than Schumaker did and he didn’t have a historically great lineup like Brian Snitker did. Counsell deserves this more.
AL Rookie of the Year
Finalist #1: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles
The game's top prospect coming into 2023 had a phenomenal rookie year. Gunner Henderson's WAR of 6.2 was the best amongst all rookies and he flashed his brilliance both at the plate and on the field. He ranked first amongst AL rookies in home runs (28), RBI (82), Triples (9), extra-base hits (65), and runs scored (99), he was also impressive in the clutch, with 10 game-winning RBIs. In terms of advanced statistics, Henderson showed an impressive ability to hit the ball hard. He ranked 10th in the league and first amongst rookies with 206 hard-hit balls and was 5th in the league with a hard-hit-rate of 52 percent. Gunnar tackled on 13 defensive runs saved on the field which was the second-best amongst rookies. Gunnar deserves this award.
Finalist #2: Tanner Bibee, Guardians
Tanner Bibee found his way into the rotation after the Guardians lost all five of their opening-day roster starters. From there, Bibee threw 142 innings of incredibly solid work, cementing himself as the most consistent and arguably best starter the Guardians had. In terms of American League rookie starting pitchers Bibee stood alone. His ERA of 2.98 was the best amongst AL rookies (would be 4th amongst all AL starters but Bibee missed the qualifying innings by 18 innings). Bibee ranked 1st amongst AL rookies and seventh in the league in HR/9 only allowing 0.82 HR/9, an impressive feat as rookies tend to struggle with control and the long ball. Talking about control, his control was impressive with 2.89 BB/9 and 3.13 SO/W. Bibee deserved this nomination.
Finalist #3: Triston Casas, Red Sox
Casas struggled the first half of the season, on May 1st Casas had an abysmal slash line of .128/.281/.282. In a rookie year very reminiscent of Dustin Pedroia’s rookie year where he struggled mightily at first, Casas managed to turn it around just as Pedroia did in his rookie year. Casas finished with the highest OPS amongst qualified rookies, with an OPS of .857, he also ranked second in home runs and walks and fourth in RBI. From June 1 to the end of the year Casas put up an impressive slash line of .299/.397/.556 with 18 home runs. The future looks bright for Casas.
Winner: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles
All 3 of these AL finalists are deserving in their own ways. All 3 of them are also probably destined to have great MLB careers and are each great in their own way. However, Gunnar stood out amongst the crowd. His ability to be a true 5 tool infielder and a key cornerstone of the Baltimore Orioles this year propels him to the front of the AL rookie class. Henderson should win this award.
NL Rookie of the Year:
Finalist #1: Kodai Senga, Mets
Kodai Senga was the new star coming over from Japan’s NPB league in the 2022 off-season. Ultimately the Mets won the sweepstakes, continuing their off-season spending spree and signing Kodai Senga to a 5 year, $75 million deal. Senga struggled to adjust to the MLB at first, but settled down, finishing with the 5th-best ERA amongst qualified starting pitchers (2.98), was one of 16 pitchers to rack up 200 strikeouts on the year with the 5th-best K/9 of 10.9, all best amongst MLB rookies. As such Kodai is very deserving of this nomination.
Finalist #2: James Outman, Dodgers
James Outman was a product of the next man-up mentality for the Dodgers, and he put together an outstanding rookie season. His 4.4 WAR was tied for fifth amongst all MLB rookies, and he put together a solid 23 home run, and 16 stolen base season for the Dodgers. Overall he batted .248/.353/.437 a pretty solid slash line for a rookie, tacking on 70 RBIs and 86 runs scored. He also was the only rookie to earn two NL Rookie of the Month awards, winning it in April and August. He faces some stiff competition against Senga and Carroll and is probably the least favorite to win the award amongst the three, but all together Outman had a very solid season.
Finalist #3: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks
What isn’t there to say about Corbin Carroll’s rookie season? Carroll was the first rookie ever to have a 25 home runs 50 stolen base season, and was just the third player in the last 30 years to do so. The 23-year-old wrapped up his rookie campaign with a slash line of .285/.362/.506 which was good for an OPS+ of 134. His 10 triples were second to only Bobby Witt and he added on 76 RBIs and an eye-popping rookie leading 116 runs scored. Corbin Carroll came into this year amongst the game's top prospects and he showed exactly what he can do. Headlined by an NL Pennant and a trip to the World Series, Carroll’s rookie year was one for the history books.
Winner: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks
Listen, Kodai Senga had a phenomenal year but this is Corbin Carroll’s award and it’s not even close. Carroll had a rookie year similar to that of Julio Rodriguez. Rodriguez is now considered one of the game's best and Carroll is not that far behind. Carroll is sure to be a first-round pick in a lot of fantasy leagues next year and will be a stud for years to come.
AL Cy Young:
Finalist #1: Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays
Kevin Gausman led the American League in strikeouts with 237 and finished 4th in the AL in ERA with an ERA of 3.16. His WAR was a bit less than impressive with a WAR of 3.4 which was good for 9th in the American League. Gausman was the definitive ace of the Toronto Blue Jays both this year and last year, with back-to-back 200 strikeout seasons. Unfortunately, he pitched in the same league as Gerrit Cole this year and Gausman will likely finish second or third in AL Cy Young voting this year.
Finalist #2: Sonny Gray, Twins
Sonny Gray might be the Toyota of Major League Baseball. He’s nothing flashy, but he’s trustworthy and reliable. You know what his floor looks like and you have a good idea of his ceiling. In 2023 Gray put together arguably his best season, perhaps putting himself into Lexus territory. For the first time since 2015, Sonny Gray is a finalist for the Cy-Young award. In 2023 Gray finished second in the American League in ERA (2.79) and second in pitcher WAR with 5.4. What made Gray so good this year was his ability to keep the ball in the yard, only allowing 8 home runs this year, the least ever by a qualified pitcher in Twins history and first amongst qualified pitchers in the MLB in 2023. From August on when the Twins needed him most, Gray put up a 2.03 ERA with 68 strikeouts to 11 walks in 66 innings. This off-season Gray will likely enter free agency and be one of the more coveted SPs on the market.
Finalist #3: Gerrit Cole, Yankees
Gerrit Cole was the best pitcher in all of baseball and it wasn’t particularly close. In 2023 Gerrit Cole led the American League in ERA with an ERA of 2.63, he ranked first in pitcher WAR with 7.5 (second closest was Blake Snell at 6.0), he led all qualified pitchers (162 innings pitched) in WHIP with a sub 1 WHIP of 0.98, and he was third in the American League in strikeouts with 222 K’s.
If Cole takes home the award he will be the first Yankee to do so since Roger Clemens won the award in 2001. In his last 7 starts of the season, Cole put together a 5-0 record with a 1.29 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 48 innings (averaging nearly 7 innings per start in those last 7 games). In his 33 starts, he allowed more than three runs just five times and he tied Logan Webb for the lead in quality starts with 24. This was finally the year of Gerrit Cole.
Winner: Gerrit Cole, Yankees
Another award that isn’t even going to be close, Cole is deserving of the Cy Young award and puts another stamp mark on a brilliant career that will likely end in Cooperstown. Gray and Gausman each had great years; neither comes particularly close to the brilliance of Gerrit Cole.
NL Cy Young:
Finalist #1: Blake Snell, Padres
Blake Snell carried his second-half dominance in 2022, where he had a 2.19 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 78 innings after the 2022 all-star break into 2023. Blake Snell led both the MLB and National league in ERA, batting average against, hits per nine innings, and ERA + in 2023, with an ERA of 2.25, a .181 batting average against, 5.8 hits per nine, and an ERA+ of 182. His WAR of 6.0 was second in the league to only Gerrit Cole. He was also second in strikeouts in the NL with 232, second only to Spencer Strider. With what was looking to be a dogfight between Snell, Justin Steele, and Spencer Strider for the Cy Young, Snell excelled with a 0.56 ERA in September, and Steele and Strider both faltered, falling out of the Cy Young finalists. Snell will in all likelihood be a free agent this offseason, being another highly sought-after arm.
Finalist #2: Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks
Zac Gallen put together a phenomenal 2023 season, which was one of his best seasons since entering the league in 2019. In 2023 Gallen had the 7th best ERA in the National League (3.47), was 3rd in the NL in strikeouts (220), 4th in the NL in WAR (4.4), and had as many quality starts as Blake Snell had (20). With runners in scoring position, opposing hitters only managed a batting average of .081.
Finalist #3: Logan Webb, Giants
Logan Webb is a first-time finalist for a Cy Young award, as he wraps up our NL Cy Young finalists. Webb was trustworthy and racked up the innings, leading the league in innings pitched with 216, to match the NL’s 4th-best ERA (3.25). On top of that Webb added 194 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.07, and an NL-best 24 quality starts.
Winner: Blake Snell, Padres
Blake Snell is the clear-cut favorite for the NL Cy Young Award. He was dominant for most of the year and his only blemish was his control with a league-high 99 walks. Despite those walks Snell still dominated, as opposing hitters were constantly flustered by him. If Snell takes home the award he will be the 7th player in history to win the NL Cy Young and the AL Cy Young, joining the ranks of Gaylord Perry, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Max Scherzer, and Randy Johnson, all of whom except Clemens and Scherzer (still active and is a future hall of famer) are hall of farmers.
Finalist #1: Corey Seager, Rangers
Corey Seager without the shift is a whole new level of insanity. Seager capped off his career year with a World Series title and a World Series MVP. In a world without Shohei Ohtani, he would also be adding an AL MVP to his resume. In just 119 games, Seager had a slash line of .327/.390/.623 for the second-highest OPS in the league, 1.013. His slugging was second in the league to only Ohtani, meaning he had a better slugging percentage than Matt Olson who hit 54 home runs. His 33 home runs were tied for 5th best in the American League and he had a career high in WAR with 6.9. In a full 162-game season, you could probably expect closer to 40 home runs and a WAR around 8.5. It was another stellar year for Seager who has cemented himself amongst the best in the game.
Finalist #2: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
The face of baseball, one of the greatest players of all time, Shohei Ohtani will be looking to retain his title as AL MVP after falling short of Aaron Judge for the honors in 2022. Perhaps even more exciting than that is the fact that Shohei Ohtani is entering free agency. The 2-Way stud will become the highest-paid player in baseball history this off-season, in one of the most exciting free agency sweepstakes of all time. From the batting side of things, the Angels designated hitter Ohtani slashed .304/.412/.654, which was good for a major league-best OPS of 1.066. He added 44 homers, 26 doubles, 20 stolen bases, and 95 RBIs in 135 games at DH this season. Those were good enough to lead the American League in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases.
From the pitching side of things, Ohtani made 23 starts this year, with an impressive 10-5 record for an otherwise not-so-great Angels team, with an ERA of 3.14 and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings. He also proved to be the hardest AL starter to hit with an opponent batting average of .184 which was the best in the AL. He was also named an All-Star for both designated hitter and starting pitcher, the third year in a row he has done so, and is looking to join Mike Trout as the only other Angels player to win multiple MVP awards. His season was unfortunately cut short due to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow, being shut down as a pitcher early. He enjoyed a few more weeks of success at the plate, but with the Angels playoff chances all but gone, Ohtani decided to fly back to Japan early to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Whoever gets him next year will be getting the best talent in all of baseball, Ohtani will be a sure-fire stud from the plate next year as he recovers as a pitcher from Tommy John Surgery and will eye a return to the mound in the 2025 season.
Finalist #3: Marcus Semien, Rangers
Corey Seager’s double play partner Marcus Semien earns his nod as an MVP finalist since 2019. In 2023, Semien was a bit quieter than Seager, slashing .276/.348/.478, he also managed to play the full 162 games and led the American league in runs and hits and finished third in WAR with 7.4 He tacked on 29 HRs, 100 RBI and 122 runs scored in 2023. He was also stellar defensively, being named a finalist for a gold glove at second base in the American League.
Winner: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
It’s Shohei Ohtani and if you think otherwise you don’t know ball.
Finalist #1: Mookie Betts, Dodgers
My man Mookie was insane this year. With a slash line of .307/.408/.579, Mookie hit a career-high 39 home runs and added 107 RBIs. This was good enough to earn him his 4th career MVP finalist honors as a cornerstone piece of the 100-win NL West champion Dodgers. This year Betts played all 162 games and was a key piece of the Dodgers defense, slotting himself onto the field where the Dodgers needed it. Betts played 80 games in the outfield this year, with 70 games played at second base and 12 games played at SS, which was much needed after the Dodgers lost Gavin Lux for the year in the preseason. Bouncing around those positions Betts committed just five total errors and earned himself a finalist spot for the NL’s utility position Gold Glove award. Offensively he put together his best season as a Dodger and second-best season behind his MVP campaign in 2018 with the Red Sox. His WAR of 8.4 was the best in the national league and second best in the MLB, trailing only Shohei Ohtani. Mookie has an interesting case for MVP but a slower September for Betts allowed Acuna to widen the gap in conversation between the two.
Finalist #2: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
In all likelihood, Ronald Acuna Jr. is well on his way to earning the 8th MVP in the history of the Atlanta Braves. Acuna was the headliner for a deadly lineup that scored 947 runs and broke the NL record for most home runs hit in a season with 307. Acuna produced one of the best seasons in the history of baseball as he became the first member of the 40 home run / 70 stolen base club (he is also the only member of the 40/50 club and 40/60 club and one of three members of the 40/40 club that includes Barry Bonds). Finishing the year with a slash line of .337/.416/.596 with 41 home runs, 73 stolen bases, 106 RBIs and 149 runs scored, Acuna’s year was insane. He also nearly tallied the same amount of extra-base hits (80) as he did strikeouts (84). The list of stats, accolades, and history goes on and on for Acuna who is just 25 years old. Any pre-season concerns that existed over how Acuna would perform in his first full season back since tearing his ACL have been silenced.
Finalist #3: Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
The current teammate of one MVP finalist and the former teammate of another, Freddie Freeman earned just his second top 3 finish in MVP voting (he won the MVP in 2020). Other than Shohei Ohtani, these three finalists in the NL might be the next three best players in baseball. Freddie Freeman hit 59 doubles in 2023, the most in Dodgers history, coming just one double shy of being the seventh player in MLB history to record 60 doubles in one season. To add to that Freeman also hit 29 home runs and 2 triples giving him 90 extra base hits on the year. The future hall of famer also added on his first 200-hit season, with 211 hits, second in the league to Acuna. He also surprisingly led the Dodgers in stolen bases with 23, giving him a 20/20 season. To top it off he added a slash line of .331/.410/.567 good for a third career-high OPS of .976. This season Freeman reached the 2000 hit mark and the 300 home run mark, and I feel he has a good shot at reaching 3000 hits and 400 home runs.
Winner: Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
The history of Ronald Acuna’s season outweighs the impressive accomplishments of his fellow finalists. I just don’t see a world where someone hits 40 home runs and records 70 stolen bases and doesn’t win MVP. Realistically there’s only one person who may be able to replicate a season like this and that’s Ronald Acuna. Acuna should deservingly win the MVP award.
Honestly, a lot of these awards are slam dunks. I could realistically see all 6 of the major player awards (Cy Young, MVP, and Rookie of the Year) all being unanimous decisions. The only person I could see potentially stealing a first-place vote is Kodai Senga in the NL Rookie of the Year race. Otherwise, all of these should and in all likelihood will be unanimous. It has been an incredibly exciting MLB season. Look to me to do some off-season coverage, especially with the impending Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes with free agency now officially open, and qualifying offers needing to be accepted or rejected by November 14th the hot stove will be cooking soon enough.